A new exhibit will open in the Gerhard Ens Gallery on February 1. Following are Assistant Curator Jessica McKague’s comments on the exhibit.
“Along the Road to Freedom: Mennonite Women of Courage and Faith, Art by Ray Dirks is opening this winter, February 1. The works in this exhibit will remember the lives of the Mennonite women who lived under Stalin’s ‘reign of terror’, and their journey to find a new home.
“Between 1947 and 1952 approximately eight thousand people escaped to Canada and another four thousand fled to Paraguay, many of these immigrating to Canada in the 1950s. What characterized this particular group of Mennonite refugees was the high number of female-headed families and the almost universal issue of missing family members. So many men had simply disappeared, or been arrested and exiled in the Soviet Union, or killed in action as conscripted soldiers in the German or Soviet forces. Women had to take on new roles and responsibilities as leaders and providers for their families.
“These women were not only victims of their circumstances but agents of change. They were refugees of political upheaval and violence but they fought to find freedom. Drawing from archival photos and families’ stories, Ray Dirks has created a series of paintings intending to ‘honour the faith, love, suffering, and strength of Mennonite mothers who brought their children to Canada as refugees from Stalin’s horrors’.
“Ray Dirks graduated from the Mennonite Educational Institute in 1973, and studied commercial art and design at Vancouver Community College. He has worked as an artist and curator around the world, with solo exhibitions in Ethiopia, Cuba, India, the United States, and Canada and has participated in exhibitions and workshops in Kenya, Sudan, Trinidad, Cuba, and the Netherlands. He has also been involved with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) projects such as the exhibit Just Food: The Right to Food from a Faith Perspective. Dirks is currently the Curator of the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery in Winnipeg.
“Along the Road to Freedom will be on display in the Gerhard Ens Gallery at MHV until March 15 2013.”